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Here’s How Much Food Contributes to Climate Change

Scientific American: “As with most things related to people, the food we eat comes with a carbon cost. Soil tillage, crop and livestock transportation, manure management and all the other aspects of global food production generate greenhouse gas emissions to the tune of more than 17 billion metric tons per year, according to a new study published on Monday in Nature Food. Animal-based foods account for 57 percent of those emissions, and plant-based ones make up 29 percent. The researchers hope the paper’s detailed breakdown of how much each agricultural practice, animal product, crop and country contributes to carbon emissions can help focus and fine-tune reduction efforts. Though previous studies have estimated emissions from agriculture, the authors say this work is more detailed and comprehensive. It uses data on 171 crops and 16 animal products from more than 200 countries, along with computer modeling, to calculate the amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are contributed by individual elements of the global food system, including consumption and production. If we want to control those emissions, “we needed to calculate a good baseline,” says study co-author Atul Jain, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign…”

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